HIV and the Church

Pregnant women and orphans in Rwanda share common hurdles to accessing the prevention and treatment to remain HIV negative. For some, the challenges may seem insurmountable - the distance to the closest health clinic is too far, the questions about care too numerous. Yet despite these challenges, Rwanda has not reported one case of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in three years.[i]


How has the nation been able to accomplish this astounding benchmark? The answer, in part, is that Rwanda is taking healthcare to the grassroots level. Within the PEACE Plan and the HIV&AIDS Initiative, this looks like utilizing laypeople serving their local churches as community healthcare volunteers. These volunteers, called Community PEACE Servants, have been successful at forging relationships and performing home visits with the people in their communities requiring screening and care, including women of reproductive age. Pregnant women are an important group to test for HIV because an HIV positive mother can pass the virus onto her baby during birth or breastfeeding. However, it is possible to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV if the mother is tested and treated during her pregnancy.


Pregnant women in given regions of Rwanda face challenges to receive the treatment they so greatly need for both themselves and their babies.  The long treks to the clinics where they receive their HIV treatment offers a physical toll, emotional drain in remembering to manage their medications and contending with the long waits for services and counseling, as well as financial strain in loss wages due to having to take time off of work. Though these women are receiving the life-sustaining treatments they need for their health and the well being of their babies, the many barriers they face can be a major deterrent to proper adherence, compromising their ability to properly stave off the virus. Volunteer health workers serving their churches have been able to successfully counter these barriers by taking primary healthcare directly to them. A connected community with an invested stake in assisting their friends and neighbors allows their local churches to become the connection to care.  


Beyond pregnant women, PEACE servants also serve another vulnerable group – orphans and vulnerable children. Adolescents living with HIV are two times more likely than their adult counterparts to incorrectly take their medication, take them incorrectly, or halt treatment completely.[ii] Outside of the care of a family, these adherence number drop even more significantly. Communities have an important stake in ensuring that adolescents are consistent with their HIV treatment as it benefits the public’s health. These PEACE Servants and their local churches can be the partners for vulnerable youth to help them access testing and to ensure proper adherence to medication. Furthermore, the local church can act to prevent children from being orphaned at all by working towards ending the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and getting to zero new infections.


In Rwanda, churches are working to address the current orphan care crisis and to address children’s need for a family by helping orphans gain a new family through adoption. The church can help children remain in their current family if it is safe, or they can help children reunite with their families if they are separated (since most children in orphanages have families in the communities but need the church to help the family become safe, healthy, and financially and emotionally ready to care). Learn more about the work happening in Rwanda to get orphans into families at

Will you and your church join us in the goal of getting to zero new babies born with HIV and zero orphans? To learn more about how to start an HIV ministry at your church or how to partner with the work Saddleback HIV&AIDS Initiative is doing both domestically and globally, go to Questions? Contact us at or call 949-609-8555

[i] How Rwanda, once torn by genocide, became a global anti-AIDS leader. (2016, July 14).

[ii] Ibid.

Posted by Robin wood 9/27/2016 10:36:00 PM
Praise Godfor this amazing transformation happening in Rwanda! I pray that I may be an instrument that He may use to help through the PEACE plan. Thank you to all those willing spirits who have and are continuing to help bring this to fruition.
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